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In its latest move in its executive shuffle, Universal has named a new leader for its prestige label Focus Features. FilmDistrict founder Peter Schlessel will step in, while the current chief executive, James Schamus, is on the way out.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Schlessel will take over in January. FilmDistrict currently has a distribution deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment, which expires in March.
However, THR notes that FilmDistrict is essentially becoming a part of Focus and its films will be released through Universal starting in January.
“The breadth and depth of Peter’s experience in the film business including production, acquisitions, distribution and most recently running FilmDistrict, will be a tremendous asset to Focus Features as the company broadens its portfolio beyond the production and distribution of specialty product,” Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley said in a statement posted at Deadline. “Peter is one of the most talented executives in the industry and I’m confident that under his leadership, Focus will become even more of a force as the specialty film business continues to evolve.”
Focus’ titles include Brokeback Mountain, The Kids Are All Right, Moonrise Kingdom and many others. It recently released The Place Beyond The Pines. The label is also producing the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Schamus is the co-founder of Focus and will not be leaving the film business. He will be working with Ang Lee on the director’s follow up to Life of Pi, a boxing epic.
Universal underwent an executive shake-up earlier this month, when former comcast executive Jeff Schell was picked to lead the studio with Langley promoted to chairman. As a result, Adam Fogelson was forced out.